I’m gonna keep this one short. I’ve seen the good and bad the Vario has to offer, and as much as anything, I’ve taken away from my observations that the biggest issue with the Vario is the hype that preceded its release. It’s a pretty good home grinder, better than pretty good for espresso in fact. However, in creating unrealistic expectations, the grinder is going to get shot down, and people will focus on what it doesn’t do instead of what it does.
I don’t like pointing the finger at specific people, and I have huge respect for Mark Prince and his site, which if truth be told, I have spent way too many hours reading, and have learned a great deal from. In a thread regarding his “First Look” at the Vario he commented:
“It is also, in my opinion, the best bang for the buck restaurant grinder, offering nearly as much consistency, a potentially better grind, and nearly 2/3rds the speed of a Ditting KF804 ($1200) grinder. In many areas, it beats the Ditting, offering digital timers, a collection aparatus (the grinds bin), and a better grind (my 100mm 1:1 macro which is nearly a 2:1 macro on a cropped camera body tells the tale).”
This was in stark contrast to my observations of lots of fines in the French Press / Filter range of things – unscientific observations (dust, sludge etc) – perhaps a camera isn’t the best way to gauge grind distribution. Over on the Über Project Blog, Paul Stack of Marco was discussing their efforts in analyzing grinder pairings for the Über Boiler. He posted this picture:
In comparing the grind profiles of the 805, Guatemala and Vario, I think it’s fairly evident that there is a marked difference between the Guatemala / 805 and the Vario. Taking 200 microns as an arbitrary point for delimiting fines vs desired grind, there is a little over twice the amount of fines comparing the Vario to the 805 (relative area under the curve measured in pixels). In percentages this equates to 6.8% of the area under the 805 curve is under 200 microns, while 15% of the Vario curve is in that region. The main peak is also more squat and spread, giving a wider range at the “desired” level. For what it’s worth the 805, as far as I can tell has the same burrs as the current 804, and an almost identical profile. Mark may of course have the older cast 804 burrset, whose performance I don’t know.
So this post is really for those out there, like me, who are looking for a filter/press/cupping grinder comparable to the big boys, that (a) will fit in a home setting, and (b) will not cost a small fortune. For now at least I can’t say that option exists.